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The Jazz's Place in the Utah Sports Landscape: The Downbeat #1529

Utahns' "favorite" teams, perks for season-ticket holders, injury news, Star Wars gifs, and more. It's your Wednesday Downbeat.

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The Jazz have been off since Sunday's loss to San Antonio, so much of Tuesday's talk in the Twittersphere was dominated by a poll conducted by Utah Policy which, among other things, pitted the state's sports offerings against each other by asking respondents to pick one single team.

The ensuing discussion prompted our own @My_Lo to unleash a torrent of tweets advising the Jazz on improving their marketing efforts. You should read the tweets; we collected them into a post for you here, with added commentary from Amar.

I just want to point out a couple things about the poll itself (you can peruse the full data set, including many other questions not shown in the tweet above, here).

First, let's be clear about what the poll is actually saying. It's forcing those polled to select ONE local team as their "favorite." The question thus creates a condition of mutual exclusivity where none exists in reality.

In other words, I'm a Jazz fan...but I'm also a Real Salt Lake fan, and a UVU fan, and YESOKAYFINEIGRADUATEDFROMBYULEAVEMEALONE. You could force me to pick the Jazz as my "favorite" team...but in the real world, I don't have to make that choice. I might have my own personal fan hierarchy, but there are plenty of circumstances where that never takes effect (e.g., the Jazz don't play in July but RSL does).

Is it somewhat revealing that, of these 402 people polled, more chose local college football teams than the Jazz as their "favorite"? Sure. It speaks to the kind of impassioned loyalty that is the natural result of an in-state football rivalry. And the relative success of those teams, and the lack thereof for the Jazz, certainly plays a role. But it doesn't mean those folks AREN'T Jazz fans.

Furthermore, the demographics of the 402 people polled are interesting: 91 percent were 35 years of age or older (which seems crazy, since that certainly isn't representative of Utah's population). 40 percent of those polled lived in Salt Lake County. Over 60 percent graduated from a university in Utah. All of these and more could shed light on why that particular question of "favorites" broke down the way it did. (I'm not going to delve too much further into the numbers. There's a reason I'm in journalism/PR and not statistics.)

The point is, this poll does NOT say that "only 24% of Utahns are Jazz fans." Nothing like it. (It doesn't say that the state has "more" Ute fans than Cougar fans either, by the way -- only that, of those polled, more chose Ute football as their "favorite" than chose BYU football.)

What it does indicate is that the Jazz perhaps do not inspire as much passion as other local sports offerings. In fact, their status as the only major professional sport in town probably has an effect on this. The Jazz have no in-state NBA rival. Data pulled from Twitter and elsewhere indicates that, despite incursions from the Lakers and others, the Jazz corner the NBA market in Utah. But less competition means less conflict. Fans of BYU and Utah LOVE to proclaim their allegiance, because there are so many on the opposing side nearby.

So how do the Jazz fight that? How do they get people who like and cheer for the Utes or Cougars to say, "Man, the Jazz are REALLY my favorite, that's the team I care about?" Or is it even that big of a problem? I don't know. Winning has a lot to do with it -- it's safe to say that the Utes' successes over the last 15 years played a part in their strong poll showing --but this poll has no historical context, so we don't know how the numbers differed when the Jazz were making NBA Finals, and the Utes and Cougs were fighting for WAC scraps. Maybe it would have made a difference. Maybe not.

Regardless, when it comes to marketing and team management, you can't control wins and losses. That's where My_Lo's tweets come in. And I agree that the Jazz could do more to compete with other local sports, to build that loyalty and favoritism.

Anyway. Dig into the data yourselves and let us know what you come up with.

Here's one thing the Jazz are doing well, marketing-wise. SLCDunker AlaskaJazzFan wrote a FanPost about his recent experience at an autograph signing the Jazz held for season-ticket holders. A snippet from his account (and many thanks for the write-up!):

I'd never done anything like this, and both my dad and I walked away with having a good experience. I really appreciate the organization for doing things like this, and the players for being good sports about it. I know signing a mortgage can be bad enough... I imagine these guys go and have ice baths for their hands after something like this... well except for Steve Novak, because he doesn't use ice.

All in all, we had a good night and I hope we can get the rest of the players to sign our basketball before the season ends.

Sounds like a great experience. It does raise the question, however, of these events being exclusive to Jazz season-ticket holders. Both My_Lo and Amar mentioned this in their earlier post. They both live in the Midwest, so such perks are out of the question for them. Yet they probably spend far more time thinking about the team, and probably more money in merch and broadcast services, than the average Jazz fan.

I don't want to go too far down this road, because it can quickly become a no-true-Scotsman pissing content, if you'll excuse my crudity and mixed metaphors. I have no interest in defining or debating what makes someone a "true" or "bigger" Jazz fan. My point is that ALL Jazz fans should be served and marketed to.

To be fair and clear, I don't think the Jazz necessarily do a "bad" job of catering to non-STH fans. Much has been done to improve the in-arena experience for those in the upper bowl. Individual ticket prices are reasonable. The social media scrolling tickers during broadcasts are a very nice touch. More of this kind of outreach, especially to the younger demographics the above poll neglected, would help the Jazz a great deal in building that brand loyalty.

One last note on the season-ticket thing: As long as we're talking about polls, I'd be interested to see a poll (perhaps administered with some truth serum) asking Jazz season-ticket holders who THEIR "favorite" local team is. I bet you'd get a surprising number of non-Jazz responses. Not all STHes are created equal. Sometimes season tickets are bought by businesses, or individuals who need a place to wine and dine clients. Sometimes they're bought by resellers. Sometimes the buyers only attend half of the games they paid for. To treat STH status as a golden imprimatur of fandom in team marketing is a mistake.

But I don't want to sound too cynical. I'm happy that AlaskaJazzFan had a good time at the event, and I'm happy the Jazz players were accommodating for him. The Jazz do excellent work in making sure the players are active in the community and interact with fans, and that's not always true of every NBA team.

So there's one FanPost for you. I've got two more: first, BTork asks if the Jazz need to live up to their musical moniker a little more:

I think Coach Q needs to give all these guys the green light to shoot in the flow of the game, not stop and have to reset into the offensive scheme. I understand that Coach Q is trying to teach the team an offense, but it seems that the Jazz play better when they don't "over-think" what they are doing.

The team is young, run after every miss, run after every out of bounds, Golden State had 22 fast break points the Jazz had 3. The Jazz are young, they can run!

And pacoelcid has some...interesting conspiracy theories...

And the wheels start grinding in me brain. I mean smokes coming out of me ears I'm thinking so hard. It's like I've heard this before. And quite honestly I'm a wee paranoid. It's like the first time I realized there's a secret society made up of the five wealthiest people in the world who run everything (seriously, they meet tri-annually at a secret country mansion in Colorado, known as the Meadows.)

Anywho, my brain's thinking and stretching and sputtering and I decide to type "JazzFanatical" into the search box of SLCDunk, and my computer hums along at 56 kbits per second and spits out 258 instances within SLCDunk where "JazzFanatical" is mentioned.


oh hey look I found this site that collected a bunch of comments from other fan blogs showing how they describe our players

yeah I dunno where it came from either

you should probably look at it though

like, if you want

but you totally don't have to and no there isn't a secret plot between jazz blogs that would be foolish and very silly

Last item: We got an update on Rodney Hood's injury, and he'll be out through the All-Star break. Without him, who do you want starting at shooting guard (along with Trey, Gordon, Derrick and Enes/Rudy?) Hit up the poll below.